The Catholic Archbishop of Harare says once a political settlement is reached in Zimbabwe, it'll take a generation for the country to heal from years of violence.
Archbishop Robert Ndlovu spoke in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday before the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference. He talked with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about what role the church can play in the Zimbabwe crisis.
"We could just encourage our leaders really to transcend as it were their own personal interests and look at the common good of the people. And I think that this is what the church has been trying to do, to talk to these leaders. I mean not maybe the leaderships, but it is the officials from these parties, to try to encourage them to reach an agreement," he says.
However, are political party officials listening to what the church is saying? Archbishop Ndlovu says, "Well, it's one thing to listen. It's another thing to put these things into practice. I think they are listening, but there are long-standing differences I think that we have to also appreciate between the different parties. And it takes a lot of effort for them to come to an agreement."
The archbishop has called for national healing, reconciliation and rehabilitation in Zimbabwe. "After such a long time of suffering and this violence…people are wounded…. And to move forward I think it would be quite imperative that we bring about some form of reconciliation and have this peace-building kind of exercise to try to bring people together…and to appreciate that things have gone bad but we need to move on. The church can help in that direction also," he says.
He also talks about a new culture of "love, solidarity and life" based on values found in the Gospels. " But he admits it would not be easy considering years of violence and political turmoil. "It would be very difficult. Because even talking as a Christian and looking at even within the church, there's been a lot of polarization. We have to appreciate that some people support the ruling party, some people support the opposition. And this has been very difficult even for the church to bring these people together. So, we need to work on that one. I don't think we have any alternative."
He says that to achieve that he would start at the grassroots level, helping those who have suffered the most. The archbishop says even the church has been hit hard by Zimbabwe's poor economy, greatly hindering its medical and educational work. He says many hospitals are without drugs.Speaking to the Zimbabwean people, the Archbishop of Harare says once a political solution is reached, it may take at least a generation for the healing to be complete. But he says, "We should not give up. I think we should remain hopeful. We shouldn't be pessimistic, but…remain optimistic. And wherever possible, let's try to work together to build a new Zimbabwe. We have the resources. What we need is the good will from each one of us. We can do it."